There is something about royalty that is so fascinating to me. What would it be like to be born into a world of privilege and power? How do they live? Who are their friends? What are their secrets?
The British royal family is my favorite, so I jumped at the chance to read In Royal Service to the Queen, by Tessa Arlen. Based on actual events and real people, the story is told from the perspective of governess Marion Crawford. Her charges were the royal Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret Rose Windsor. What she experienced while working for and living with the royal family could give me an insider’s view of the dreams, disappointments, and triumphs of the famous family. Telling this story in a fictionalized account is a tremendous challenge. Daunting, really. I was curious to see if Arlen could pull it off.
Marion Crawford was a young Scottish woman when she accepted a summer job in 1931 as the governess to Elizabeth and Margaret Rose, the two young daughters of the Duke and Duchess of York. This would evolve into a permanent position in the household of the second son of King George V who would later become king when his brother Edward abdicated the throne to marry the twice-divorced American socialite Wallis Simpson. We briefly touch upon this critical time in the life of Bertie and his wife Elizabeth who never expected to be elevated to the highest position in the land.
The story really begins to heat up after WWII in 1945 when Princess Elizabeth, the heiress-presumptive to the British throne, falls in love with Prince Philip of Greece, a young Royal Navy officer. Crawfie, as Marion is endearingly called by the family, is the only one in Elizabeth’s intimate circle who supports her choice of Philip as a possible husband. Marion herself has also fallen in love with George, a family friend who she wants to marry. This is a complicated situation for both ladies that will take subtle shifting of opinions of the king and queen on Elizabeth’s behalf, and patience and persistence for Marion. Over the next two years Crawfie is placed in a precarious situation—caught between her loyalty to Princess Elizabeth and risking her relationship with her employer Queen Elizabeth who we see really wears the pants in the royal family. After years of loyal service and personal sacrifice, Marion achieves her goals and sees Elizabeth and herself marry the men that they love, but at a great cost. A betrayal by her employer will sever her sixteen-year relationship with her dear princesses. Continue reading